Sailors, Marines and midshipmen subjected to sexual harassment now have access to resources available to sexual assault victims, according to a new Department of the Navy policy signed June 9.
Those who’ve experienced sexual harassment may now receive crisis intervention, safety assessments, counseling resources and victim advocacy support, and they may discuss reporting options with personnel from the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program.
“This policy reflects the department’s commitment to creating a culture of dignity and respect, and strengthening victim support services,” said Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro in a statement accompanying a June 26 press release. “We take victims’ experiences seriously, and we are committed to creating an environment where victims of sexual harassment are heard, validated and feel safe to report their experience and receive supportive services.”
The Department of the Navy defines sexual harassment as unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that impacts an individual’s employment.
The policy aligns with recommendations included in the FY22 National Defense Authorization Act.
“Preventing sexual harassment within an organization requires a comprehensive and multifaceted approach,” said Andrea N. Goldstein, acting director of the DON Office of Force Resiliency, in a statement. “We will continue to implement policies and procedures that clearly define sexual harassment, improve victim response, and educate members on the importance of bystander intervention, to reduce the likelihood of sexual harassment occurring.”
The change is one of several the Navy has unveiled in the past 18 months regarding sexual harassment and assault. In April 2022, the department announced it was stripping commanders in the Navy and Marine Corps of investigative authority over sexual harassment allegations within their own units.
Two months later, in June 2022, it announced that sailors, Marines and midshipmen who report a sexual assault will no longer be punished for “minor collateral misconduct.”
That policy change means those who make an unrestricted report of an assault through the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office or the Family Advocacy Program will not be penalized if they were engaging in underage drinking at the time, or near the time, of the alleged assault; were involved in an unprofessional relationship with the accused perpetrator; or were violating other orders, such as curfews, at the time of the alleged assault.
President Joe Biden signed a January 2022 executive order requiring that sexual harassment be included in the Uniform Code of Military Justice under Article 134. While sexual harassment previously could be prosecuted as dereliction of duty under Article 92 of the UCMJ or as conduct unbecoming under Article 133, the executive order specifically lists sexual harassment as an offense under Article 134, the “general article.”